February 15, 2014 at 1:00 am

Plymouth church sets goal to send 2 million meals to hungry children around world

2 million meals campaign
2 million meals campaign: Plymouth’s NorthRidge Church joins efforts to feed the hungry in places such as El Salvador, Haiti and the Philippines.

Novi— The task of making 2 million meals in three days for impoverished children in foreign countries wasn’t a deterrent for Colleen Schmader. It was a motivator.

Schmader, 40, of Ann Arbor teamed up with Scott Schafer, 33, of Birmingham to meticulously seal dozens of individual meals in plastic bags. The two took the day off from work to be a part of an effort by Plymouth’s NorthRidge Church to feed the hungry in places such as El Salvador, Haiti and the Philippines.

“We wanted to be involved and to give back to the community,” said Schmader, who was joined by several of her work colleagues in the volunteer effort. “I was just wanting to help feed hungry children.”

The NorthRidge event, which was held at the Suburban Collection Showplace center in Novi and runs through Sunday, is the second feed-the-children effort of its kind in three years. The 20,000-member church partners with Feed My Starving Children, a Minnesota-based, nonprofit organization that feeds the hungry all over the globe with a goal of packing 2 million meals by the end of the weekend.

Church members and other volunteers — at least 10,000 were expected to attend the three-day event in staggered shifts — were divided between work stations at dozens of tables to put together the mixture of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and vitamins and minerals. Each item is bagged and boxed and placed into five semi trucks, organizers say.

The church over the Christmas holidays raised the $400,000 that helped to buy the food, organizers said, and Friday hundreds of volunteers filled a portion of the 65,000-square-foot center to work to put together the meals. The packing of food was to be done by 900 people working in 11 two-hour shifts.

NorthRidge Pastor Brad Powell said the church’s mission is to spread Jesus’ message of compassion and love and that the massive surge of volunteers this year — there were 5,000 volunteers who made 1 million meals in three days the first time the church did the event — shows people care about others.

“There’s no greater way to do that than by stepping out with compassion and generosity to say, you think you’re not important but you are important,” Powell said of the children who are in need. “You think we don’t notice, but we do notice. You think people don’t care, but someone does care. We’ve invited our co-workers, our neighbors and others because we want everyone to be a part of it.”

Michael Miller, the director of stewardship and outreach at NorthRidge, said the demand was high to do a second meal program but the “challenge was how much do we do the second time.”

The first event featured mostly church members who took one week to pack the meals.

“We felt like it was a stretch to get to 10,000, but literally over three weeks all of the spots were filled up,” Miller said. “These kinds of meals will go to hospitals and orphanages in the three countries. So these kids will get at least one of these meals every single day.”

Jon Hahn, 56, of Canton participated in the event three years ago and was back this time with his wife. He took the day off from his job at General Motors in Detroit to serve his church and the mission.

“It’s just great to see all the families so excited about serving and serving together,” Hahn said. “To have the opportunity to come back and help — and just get the energy of giving — was just so exciting and compelling to me.”

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Scott Schafer, left, and Colleen Schmader, right, join other members of NorthRidge Church at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi Friday to pack 2 million meals. The church is partnering with Feed My Starving Children to send the meals to hungry children. / Photos by Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News
Volunteers, from left, Judy Deckert, Luisa Solak and Jan Bartee, all ... (Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)